Had the late Eric Rohmer been born a woman in contemporary America, he might have made a movie as self-consciously small as Tiny Furniture, a quietly engaging portrait of life in TriBeCa as lived by a recent college grad.
After returning home from college, Aura (Lena Dunham) moves in with her mom (Laurie Simmons) and her younger sister (Grace Dunham). Blood relations dominate both on and off screen: Simmons is the real mother of Lena Dunham, who also directed Tiny Furniture. Grace is her real sister.
For 27 years, Robert Denerstein was the film critic at The Rocky Mountain News. Read more of Robert's reviews at Denerstein Unleashed.
Casual, funny and observant, Tiny Furniture may feel slight compared to more robust comedies, but its narrowness fits the sliver of life Dunham is intent on observing. Tiny Furniture is a low-consequence movie that perfectly captures a transitional moment.
The movie brings a variety of characters into Aura’s narrowly defined world. It doesn’t take long for Aura to hook up with a childhood friend played by the hilariously overdramatic Jemima Kirke. She also tries to establish relationships with a young YouTube sensation (David Call) and a chef (Alex Karpovsky) who works at the restaurant where Aura lands a job as a hostess.
In Tiny Furniture, Dunham distinguishes herself with intelligence and humor, not to mention a great ear for the kind of dialogue spoken by people who are well practiced in cleverness. In fact, Aura might be a prime example of a generation whose cleverness constitutes its greatest accomplishment.
Don’t take that as a knock. Dunham shows little inclination to paper over the pretensions, shallowness and self-absorption of lives as yet unsullied by significant events.
True to its title, Tiny Furniture is a small curiosity, a movie made by someone who clearly knows the scene in which she skillfully immerses us.
Put another way, Tiny Furniture answers a question I hadn’t really thought about before: What happens when smart people have nothing much to be smart about?